Sean Ryan – Pennsylvania Interview by Larissa Chelius Nomination by Natalie Ryan Photography by Rich Levy/ Natalie Ryan Issue 22 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination:When Sean Ryan was deciding what to do for an Eagle Project he wanted something meaningful. He looked around at all he was lucky enough to have, supportive family, excellent school, good friends. He also thought about what he loved to do most which was reading. Then he set about doing something meaningful to him but also a way to give back to those less fortunate. Sean decided to collect books for the Samuel Pennypacker School in Philadelphia which had not a had a library in many years. He began a book drive intending to obtain 500 books. What he didn't expect was an outpouring of generosity from the community. On April 26, 2019, Sean Ryan loaded up 3,415 books and started a library for the students at Pennypacker Elementary.
How did your reading disability affect your perspective on school? I remember how challenging it was for me to read. I liked books, but it was difficult for me, so I just avoided books. I started using a reading program with my teacher called MRI, and that is when everything clicked. I began to understand reading, so I started enjoying reading. I’m not sure exactly when my passion for books began after that. It was probably gradual, but by 7th grade, I was being nominated by my English teacher for a reading award.
Did you know that you wanted to do a book drive because you had a reading disability? I think that probably happened indirectly. As I became more confident in my reading I wasn’t so intimidated by books. Books became something that I just loved. I began to really appreciate the fact that I was so lucky to be in a district that had so many resources available to me. I wanted other kids who weren’t as lucky as I was to have that opportunity too. To me, reading is a portal to all kinds of exciting places and adventures.
What made you choose Samuel Pennypacker School in Philadelphia? My cousin teaches there and he loved to talk about all his “kids”. I remember him telling me that the library had been closed for years and that it was just being used as a place to store old teacher manuals and workbooks. That made me feel kind of sad for the students. When the time came for me to pick my Eagle project I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and would make an impact in other’s lives as well. A book drive just seemed like the most natural choice for me.
How did the community react to your book drive at first? My community was amazing. My mom suggested social media to reach the most people and let them know about it. I started by going on the Butler Elementary Facebook page and asking if anybody had books to donate. So many people replied. They hold a book sale at their Spring Fair and the PTO told me that they would like to donate any books left over to my book drive. Then word of mouth spread, and I was contacted by a Board of Education member who put me in contact with the Principal of Coldspring Elementary. They had a fire in their library in February and had many books donated to them. They too were looking for a new home for them. The whole community really pitched in to help.
How did you feel when you obtained all 3,415 books? When I first began the book drive, I thought that maybe I might collect 500 books. I am so amazed and humbled by everyone’s generosity! I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would collect so many books
Why do you think the community contributed so much to this school? We live in a very involved community that really cares about others and values education above all else. I think the Central Bucks Community just wanted to help others who weren’t as fortunate. Books are the one thing that people just can’t throw away so the idea of re-homing them really appeals to them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be where you are today? Just follow your heart and do something that you are passionate about. It feels really good to pay it forward!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are your plans for the future? I am exploring possible career ideas. I plan on joining the Pennsylvania National Guard next year while attending a 4-year college. I find myself drawn to a career that serves the public maybe law enforcement more specifically Federal law enforcement but I am also really interested in architecture so we will see.
What about you inspires others/why do you think you are inspiring? I am pretty focused on my end goals. I started as a cub scout in first grade and here I am a junior in high school, and I am still active in scouting. I really try to be a good role model for others. I have managed to keep my GPA at around 3.8. I really just like to get involved and help people, so I volunteer through the National Honors Society for various organizations and charities.
How do you keep yourself organized with everything you have on your plate? I don’t dwell on it…I just take one day at a time and try the best I can to just get things done.
What is your favorite activity or pastime that wasn’t in your nomination? Besides reading, I love to scuba dive, ski and absolutely love anything related to the military or history.
Who do you find inspiring? I don’t find one specific person inspiring. The people who inspire me are those who make sacrifices for the good of others. People such as our soldiers, firefighters, and police who are ready to put their lives on the line for others.
Pizza or Tacos? Soda or Water? Cats or Dogs? That’s easy I love Taco pizza so both! Water. I also love all animals but I would have to say dog.
What are 3 things on your bucket list Skydiving, Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef, Travel around Europe
Sean will be featured in Issue 22 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!!